Initially, I was an Obama doubter.Update: Neil responds to a friend, but it's pertinent...
I was backing John Edwards - now of course it is clear where my doubts should have rested, but even as I have come to appreciate the manifold talents, temperament, and decency of Mr Obama - indeed, even as I have thrown myself into campaigning on his behalf, I retain a sense of reservation. I am subtly but increasingly wary and even resistant to the pull of hero-worship that seems to infect everyone around me.
Deep down a voice inside me whispers with urgency "We do not need a savior, a hero on a white horse, a great man - this is a path away from democracy and the end of our great republic." After eight years of the Cheney administration's "Unitary Executive", I want to avoid a counter-reaction from the left, a swing in direction but a continuation of a governing power that resides not in the Congress but in the White House, a continuation of the emasculation of checks and balances and the withering of the applicability of laws to those residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
When the President does it, it isn't illegal - these words of Richard Nixon's have been the credo of Mr Cheney and his ilk. The underlying mindset that permitted the return of this pirate ethos to the Presidency is a willingness among a broad swath of Americans to place their trust in one man, believed to be in touch with God Almighty, rather than in the laws, traditions, and institutions of o ur government.
The government is not the solution to our problems - it is the problem, argued the great man-leader of Republicans. This attitude produced the tragic ineptitude and neglect that was so evident in the aftermath of Katrina, in the administration of the ruinous war in Iraq, and in the meltdown of our financial markets and institutions.
We do not need more of the same. I support Barack Obama, and I hope with all my heart he has the wisdom of Lincoln, the genius and perserverance of FDR, the energy and political mastery of LBJ, and the goodness, idealism, generosity of spirit, and humane decency that is needed in such a time of crisis and hardship. But my deepest hope is that my elected representatives in Congress will assert the power of their institution and regain my trust and the trust of the nation. My deepest hope is that that my President and my Congress will work together to meet our great national challenges - and to heal the injuries to our constitutional, republican and democratic government.
I fear that in placing the halo on Obama's head, we are repeating the mistake made by those who placed that same halo on the head of George W Bush. I am uneasy, even as I tingle with anticipation of the coming Democratic victory.
Does anyone else share this concern, or am I just a wet blanket?
Actually, I am not concerned that Obama would do mischief. The man was a professor of constitutional law - whatever his policies, one can be assured that the rule of law matters to him. Nor do I begrudge anyone a celebration after eight years of darkness. Light the torches and let's all sing a song of change - it is good for what ails us. For myself, I am not alarmed at the profound joy that I note among my freinds and neighbors. I am not chagrined that small children sense the hopeful spirit of their parents.
My worry is that Americans have grown accustomed to a weak Congress, and Congress itself, under the mind-numbing incompetence of Pelosi and Reid, seems to be unable or unwilling to play its Constututional role. We all need to be more involved in elections and governance - if we hope to revitalize our institutions, we cannot sit back and wait to see if Obama or any other individual will work it all out for us.
What we have lost in the past eight years, aside from our honor, the lives of our volunteer troops, and about $5 trillion in borrowed funds is even more precious - we have lost our sense of responsibility to steer our government, to preserve our liberty, and to share the rewards and costs of citizenship [emphasis mine]. I do not criticize people for cheering Obama -- my point is that we will all need to do more. Obama, the community organizer, gets this - he knows that our power comes from joining together in concerted action. The great issues of our time will not be resolved by Executive action but through the positive collaboration of concerned and energetic citizens.